Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Silly season starts early

We have not even reached the end of the season yet and the gossip columns are already going crazy with highlighting Charlie Austin to AFCB and Matt Ritchie being a target for Hull City. It's good to talk of course and to mark out possible key signings, but I hate to tell everyone - the season is not over yet and AFCB's players have the biggest seven games to play in their careers to date.

That is the reality. I know Eddie Howe will be telling the players they can forget about holidays and transfer moves at the moment. If they are not 100 per cent focused on the task ahead of them, two weeks in the city of Hull might be their next reward and not Dubai. AFCB's players seem to have their heads screwed on though, and it is perhaps more a reflection on the journalists not having much to say until the football gets underway again.
Matt's in demand - who's next?
Still there is likely to be some movement of players both in and out. The months of June and July could be very busy, but our manager is not going to have much time before he is being questioned about player availability by the sound of it even if the Cherries do go up. The excitement about the Cherries squad is not just that they are good players but that so many of them are British home-grown players and with all the chatter in the last week about how Greg Dyke, chairlam of the FA, would like to bring in new rules to limit the amount of foreign players in the Premier League, all of a sudden those teams that are in and around the top of the Championship probably look like chests of gold to those already in the promised land.

Rumours are always going to be around, but one note of caution I should mention is that Birmingham City have been looking to see who they could replace Demarai Gray with should he chose to leave the Blues in the summer. Whether that indicates that AFCB are still keen on the young international is hard to say but if AFCB can't hold on to Ritchie it wouldn't be a great surprise to see Demarai Gray on the south coast at some point during the summer. Silly season - it's not too far away. 

Cherry Chimes April Newsletter - out tomorrow!

Tomorrow we'll be releasing the Cherry Chimes' April Newsletter which picks over the top stories from the blog in March.

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Monday, 30 March 2015

Listening in on SKY Sports' Simon Thomas and Eddie Howe (Video)

We must have been some of the last few fans to disperse from the Goldsands stadium after the Middlesbrough match. As it was an early kick off I did not really feel the need to race off home back to Surrey having just seen the Cherries dispatch a Championship rival with such a delicious display, so I decided to hang around a bit with Robert and Stephen to see if we could catch any celebrates after the game.
Simon Thomas checks his phone while Darren Anderton watches players warm up.
To my surprise Simon Thomas and Darren Anderton were not going to hide up in the high box studio that had been constructed for them between the Family stand and the North stand after the game. Sky Sports still wanted to do a post-match interview with Eddie Howe right down on the pitch in front of the few fans that had stayed late.
It was a busy day for the Sky team.

Eddie gives his verdict on Arter penalty and overall 
performance of AFCB (sound quality is low).

Sure enough we soon saw Eddie start dashing towards us and after a few seconds he was all hooked up and ready to go live on air with Simon Thomas looking gleefully pleased to be able to grill Eddie Howe over Harry Arter's rather contentious penalty and the run in. I just about had time to get towards the front and just record whatever I could even though I was a little way back and while the sound quality is not the best you can get a good idea of what Eddie Howe had to say about many aspects of the win against Middlesbrough and I particularly like the interruption from the AFCB fans, and when Simon Thomas hands over at the end by saying and now over to Aitor Karanka to discuss Middlesbrough's heaviest defeat of the season. 
Simon Thomas is keen to get started. 
Just writing down a few notes - this crowd is noisy!
The wind gets up and Simon has to grab his notes quick!
True pro - you wouldn't know he was scrabbling on the floor for his notes three seconds ago. 
Piece to camera done.
AFCB player International watch
Finally, last night Ireland drew 1-1 with Poland in a hotly contested match and neither Artur Boruc or Harry Arter managed to join the game from the bench which was probably good for AFCB as it was a very competitive match.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Ritchie gets 45 minutes for Scotland

It was a bit of a mixed reaction by Scottish fans on Matt Ritchie's performance in the first 45 minutes against Gibraltar. While he made a great through ball for Shaun Maloney to get on to which led to the initial penalty and gave Scotland the lead, Ritchie did not get on the ball as much as he does for the Cherries and while Scotland were looking shaking at the back at times, he was replaced at half time for another defender - Gordon Greer.
Matt is just getting used to the international scene.
Of course, this was only Matt's second cap and Gordon Strachan is probably aware of what potential Matt has and that AFCB are involved in a massive race for the Championship. For all we know Eddie Howe may have asked that Matt be not asked to play 90 minutes in both matches while he was away with the Scotland squad. Scotland were also 4-1 up at half time and so the points were really in the bag for this game by half time considering Gibraltar had not scored this campaign in any of their other fixtures. 

It was still noticeable that Ritchie was chosen to start ahead of Derby's Johnny Russell both against Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. Strachan clearly was not worried about putting Matt right into the heat of battle with a European Qualifier and while Gibraltar are not the most dangerous of sides, the fact that they scored against Scotland and gave them plenty of problems in the first 20 minutes illustrated that they are not the push over some might have thought.
Matt is hopefully going to return fresh for AFCB.
I did feel Matt did not get on the ball as much as he would have liked and when he did get it he did find the big number nine - Steven Fletcher - quite well with his crosses and if Strachan is looking for a quality crosser of the ball, then Matt should be in his plans going forward. It is not only Matt Ritchie who needs to get to know how Gordon Strachan's team play, Scotland also need to try and give Matt what he needs to get the best out of him. 

We did see Matt have one shot in the first half against Gibraltar but it was tame and right at the keeper. It is may be going to take Matt a bit more time to contribute in a Scotland shirt as well as he does in an AFCB shirt but I was just thankful that he did not pick up an injury and that he can use the experience to add to what he has already learnt in the Championship.

Scotland ran out 6-1 winners against Gibraltar.

Sky presenters get to work at AFC Bournemouth (videos)

There was plenty of fun and a few jobs for Sky presenters Jim white and Natalie Sawyer at Dean Court before the Middlesbrough match. I got down to the ground early as I knew they would be around and I wanted to see whether the banter that we often see on screen is the same when they would be meeting the fans and hopefully doing some work to keep AFCB bringing in the cash.
It started  out as a friendly competition to puts some names and numbers on the back of shirts. 
Jim was rather chuffed with his Scottish McRitchie shirt.
Natalie was taking it very seriously and wanted to do a good
 job especially with Jim trying to put her off.

Natalie's turn to make Callum Wilson's shirt.

The Sky Bet Transfer Fund had arranged for Jim and Natalie to be job transferred from their TV studio to the ground as a way of meeting some of the fans and helping out on match day. I caught up with the two presenters as they were heading for the club shop. Jim was keen to get his hands on a McRitchie shirt following the call up for AFCB's new Scottish international squad member who will hopefully get to play in the Euro 2016 qualifiers now. So Barry in the shop got Jim to work on the shirt press to see if Jim could get the letters on straight and Jim managed to keep his yellow tie safe from danger and was quickly bragging about what a great job he had done, before Nathalie got her chance to make a Callum Wilson shirt. I am not to sure if she was confident when she heard the number she had to put on the shirt was  number 13, while Jim was doing everything he could to put her off asking if she had printed 31.

The two presenters moved on to selling some merchandise on the front till, although the queue was building quickly with the long conversations that were now taking place as everyone wanted to have a chat with the likable presenters, while Jim was cracking jokes all the time and putting smiles on faces.
Behind the till in the shop
Serving customers.

Natalie was drawing in the crowds outside.
Jim was also getting lots of photos taken.
Outside Natalie was certainly getting a lot of attention as she did a bit better at selling the Matchday programmes than Jim. The male fans were keen to get a few selfies with Natalie who was more than happy to oblige as long as she out sold Jim which was never really a problem for her.

Natalie is much in demand.

Jim goes close!

I also managed to have a word with Jim and Natalie and thanked them on behalf of our competition winners as Sky Bet had given us three pairs of tickets in the end to give away to AFCB fans for the Middlesbrough match which proved to be a big hit.

At half time the two presenters also had a go at hitting the cross bar, but I think they both need to spend a bit more time on the training pitch before they have another go in front of the crowds.

AFCB International watch Finally, well done to Shaun MacDonald in coming on for Wales yesterday in the 84th minute to help see Wales get a 0-3 away win against Israel.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

It was just a perfect day

I'm still getting a thrill out of last weekend and hopefully it's still doing the same for you and for the players. When you go to Dean Court and you see the English Championship Trophy being unboxed in front of you and paraded on its stand for the fans and viewing public to see on TV, you know it is going to be a rather special day. It is really hard to imagine that AFCB are within touching distance of such a prize, but there is a buzz around the ground and the team that is willing them and Eddie to win their first title now and why not? Some team has to win it and the Cherries have been top for more weeks than any other team in the Championship even if the lead has changed some 19 times.
Wouldn't it be great if Tommy Elphick could be lifting this in May.
I must admit I was a bit transfixed by the sight of the silver work in front of me before the match against Middlesbrough. I never realised it was quite so intricately engraved and really a beautiful trophy. I wasn't the only one as many fans that were in the Family and Main stand were soon coming to take a look and having been so close to winning a title two season's ago, you get the feeling that the club knows it has to seize the moment now if it is going to do justice to all the hard work that has been put into the season so far.

Seizing the moment is certainly what happened on 21 March when Eddie's team set about making the best defensive side in the league look extremely average or out of sorts against a rampaging Cherries side that created chance after chance and was by far the better side on the day. 

With the sun casting shadows over the pitch by the time the final whistle had gone, I knew that this had been a very special day. Even Eddie Howe looked like he was relaxed and enjoying the moment although that might have been helped by the thought of the team about to fly off for a few days in the sun - well at least the players not on international duty. The Dubai training camp will really concentrate the players' minds on what is ahead of them and I hope that it is a positive battery charger for them. I think hanging around at home waiting for the next few games will be harder for us fans than for the team, but hopefully we will all have something to celebrate on 2 May. UTCIAD!

Well done to Jake McCarthy who has signed a new two-and-a-half-year contract with the club. there are also new one-year deals for six other players in the Development Squad - goalkeeper Patrick O’Flahertry, full-back Callum Buckley, and midfielders Josh Carmichael, Josh Wakefield, Mason Walsh and Ben Whitfield. Congratulations to them all.

However, Kaye and Aristide Bassele are set to be released.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Injuries are not what AFCB need now

The match against Middlesbrough came at the end of another hard period of games for AFCB. It was not great to see both Callum Wilson and Marc Pugh limp off the field towards the end of the game but a lot can happen in 13 days and it will be interesting to see whether either of them make it back to be fully fit for the Ipswich match. 
Marc Pugh will have to recuperate over the
international break to get his ankle better. Eddie Howe said
 it was an impact injury and should not be a long term problem..
If not then we could see a change to the strike force for the Portman Road game, while Ryan Fraser is possibly the most likely stand in for Pugh. It is going to be a period of time now when AFCB just have to wait and see how their players come through the international matches and who is going to be available. 

I saw that Southampton lost Fraser Forster in their game against Burnley but thankfully the Saints cannot recall Artur Boruc at this stage of the season. Artur himself will be involved in Poland's international against the Republic of Ireland and could go face to face with Harry Arter. Meanwhile, Matt Ritchie will also hopefully come through unscathed from his time with the Scottish squad while Shaun MacDonald also has a call up for Wales.

I can't remember a recent period when so many of AFCB's players have had call ups. Even Bailey Cargill will be playing for England's U20s and Benjamin Buchel is with the Liechtenstein
squad. It has been a great time for Bournemouth players and you can start to understand why fans of other clubs get nervous around this time when their players are involved in internationals. It will probably mean that I will take more interest in the friendlies and Euro 2016 qualifiers just because I'll want to see how well the AFCB players do, but I kind of also feel that the internationals are a bit of a hindrance at such a crucial stage of the season.

Wilson has been playing despite the niggles

I was  a bit worried to hear that Callum Wilson has had to have injections before the last few games for AFCB just to help his toes and that one of his knees has been giving him some trouble as well. When he came off against Middlesbrough you could see that he was walking pretty uncomfortably and it looked like his face was telling everyone that he might not be able to meet up with the England U21 squad. Since then we have heard that he will not be joining up with that squad which is a big pity for him, but clearly not necessarily bad news for the Cherries at this stage of the season.
Callum will be hoping that he is fit enough to take part against Ipswich Town.
Sometimes the club is very good at hiding injuries and niggles to players and the difficulties that Callum Wilson has been experiencing is something that might explain why he has been so eager to keep scoring and to keep playing. He has hardly missed any games though this season and with call ups for the England U21s as well, I am sure that AFCB are being really careful not to burn him out. He has been great this season but AFCB will also want him to be no less productive next season and long term management of players is always the way clubs try and look after such prestigious talent.

Being Callum's first Championship season he will probably find when he looks back at the season and feel that he gave it his all and his all has been the catalyst for the Cherries' startling season. I would expect there to be many Coventry fans still willing him on to achieve more and the summer offers him the chance to play for his country in a big tournament if selected. That means no real rest though for Callum and if he is already finding that he needs treatment it probably isn't going to get any easier for him. If this is what he can do though when he doesn't quite feel 100 per cent, I imagine that AFCB really do have a top quality striker on their books who will one day play for the full England international side.

The signing of Kenwyne Jones on loan enables Callum to get fully fit before coming back into the team and it may be just what he needs right now so I hope everyone gets behind Kenwyne and makes him feel welcome. What it says about Cardiff's season is perhaps more telling as one of the hot promotion favourites are languishing in mid-table and the chance to reduce the wage bill looks like it was too hard to resist for Russell Slade who is also a good friend of Eddie Howe. 

Good luck to Josh Carmichael at Havant & Waterlooville, Josh O'Hanlon at York City and Mohamed Coulibaly at PortVale.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

What's behind Kenwyne Jones' AFCB loan move?

The Bournemouth Echo is among those sources of media that have been reporting that Kenwyne Jones is on his way to AFCB on loan until the end of the season. My first thought was to rub my eyes and make sure what I was reading was true. Then I started to think the injuries to Callum Wilson may be taking its toll on him and Eddie Howe may have been forced into making a signing if he did not think Callum Wilson was going to be available for the next few games.

The news comes on the back of what is likely to be a failed attempt to entice Arsenal's England U20 striker Chuba Akom to the south coast. It is clear though that AFCB have decided that the final run of games needs more fire power it they are to succeed in their ambition to get promoted. Fans had been wondering if the failure to sign any striker in January would diminish the Cherries' chances of finishing in the top two but with seven games remaining they remain in pole position.

As for Kenwyne Jones, he has not had that bad a season as he is Cardiff City's top scorer on 13 goals, 11 of which were in the league. For AFCB though this is a big named signing and for Kenwyne it is really a trial to see if he can take the Cherries up and so secure a place in a Premier League team next season. He must have impressed during the recent game with Cardiff where AFCB were disappointed not to come away with a win. But with Kenwyne in AFCB's team they could be heading up in style - if you know what I mean.

AFCB have certainly been making noises around the forward front this week with reports of Rickie Lambert also being perhaps a summer target if the Cherries can secure Premier League status. Carlton Cole who AFCB were looking at last summer looks keen on a move to Brentford rather than the Cherries.

While not everything is moving in one direction, Mohamed Coulibaly, who was sponsored by Cherry Chimes last season looks set to join Port Vale on loan.

Cook and Elphick had Bamford in their pocket

The pre-match hype for the AFCB v Middlesbrough game was all about Patrick Bamford and Callum Wilson. Which U21 striker would prevail in one of the games of the season? Bamford had been in sparkling form before this fixture having scored four in his last four games and all AFCB fans were being told is that you have to keep Bamford quiet if you are to get anything from this match.
Patrick Bamford couldn't escape the clutches of Elphick and Cook last Saturday.
When the final whistle went though AFCB fans were saying Bamford who? That is the job that Tommy Elphick and Steve Cook did, it was magnificent. They managed a complete shut out against a team that was said to be riding high having just beaten Derby and Ipswich. I was expecting to see the power of Albert Adomah and trickery lee Tomlin cause the Cherries problems at the back, but they were stopped from creating and with Bamford starved of service it never looked like the striker on Chelsea's books was going to add to his 16 goals of the season.

It was a match when the best attack would go up against the best defence and AFCB's attack was far superior on the day. Still Middlesbrough had not suffered such a defeat all season and to not manage a shot on target says all you need to know about how Steve Cook and Tommy Elphick did on the day.
Another good shut out for Steve and Tommy.
When we reach the end of the season and you are looking at who should be player of the season, don't forget that AFCB's central defenders have been incredible in what has only been their second season in the Championship.

Meanwhile, Matt Ritchie made his Scotland debut at Hampden Park last night wearing No8 and he started the game and made the assist for Scotland's goal that Christophe Berra scored from Matt Ritchie's corner in the 85th minute - Scotland 1 v 0 N Ireland. Ritchie might now play against Gibraltar on Sunday in the Euro 2016 qualifier. The official AFCB site has a fill AFCB international player fixture list.

Finally, the Independent was reporting last night that Arsenal and England U20 striker Chuba Akpom could be on his way to signing on loan with AFCB today, although Norwich and Forest are also in the running for his signature.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Arter is becoming the complete midfielder

You have got to be pleased for harry Arter. He has had a pretty brilliant couple of weeks in an AFCB shirt and he is now just about to put on a Republic of Ireland shirt. It is nice that people are talking about other things than his yellow cards as he has been scoring blindingly good goals in his stride again, and he is starting to show everyone that he is now the complete midfielder.
Left foot or right foot, the ball usually hits the back of the net at the moment for Harry.
Harry Arter doesn't score ordinary goals anymore. His latest effort was described as a "Rocket launcher" by Kris Temple on BBC Radio Solent. The journalists were in quite a hurry to get hold of him after the game to get Harry to describe his latest thunderbolt, but Harry almost seems rather shy about talking about what he can now do on the pitch which kind of makes him even more likable to fans.

Eddie Howe was not sure which is Harry's best foot anymore as he seems to be able to hit stunning goals with either foot. The Cardiff strike was pretty good as he had time to pick his spot, but his goal against Middlesbrough was simply instinctive and that is probably the only way he could have beaten Konstantopoulos from that range.

I was less pleased with the second penalty that Harry won for AFCB against Middlesbrough as I felt it was won as opposed to awarded for a foul. Harry says it was the momentum and that he was not sure if he was touched or not but that it wasn't a dive. Still it didn't look great. He might have been sent off if another referee had been in charge and if Harry is going to grace the international scene it is going to be even more important for him to channel his concentration into not getting silly bookings when he is carrying his country's hopes in games. 

Still, well done Harry. I would say grab yourself some sun but I think Dubai is more renowned for that than Ireland - at least his AFCB team mates are in the sunlight - never mind Harry.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Middlesbrough were never really in the game

The dominance of AFCB in the top of the table clash with Middlesbrough was quite surprising to me. The possession stats indicate that AFCB sat off a little in the second half once they had certainly got the third goal and looked to hit Boro on the break, but the early first half possession was quite something. The shot count is really what shows you how good AFCB were on the day with 17 attempts and seven on target compared to Boro's three attempts, none of which gave Artur Boruc anything to do.
It could have been more.
I had hinted a few days before the game that it might be a hurdle too high for Boro having come through tough games already against Ipswich and Derby. It turned out to be that way and Aitor Karanka was not surprisingly asked after the game how come you never really got started in this game? They were really blown away in the first half even though the score at half time was only 1-0. The first five minutes of the second half were the killer blow though and there was nowhere for Boro to go once they were 2-0 down.

Middlesbrough's passing was often sideways and backwards which was down to a lot of the pressing that AFCB's unsung hero Andrew Surman was doing in midfield. He won and retained possession exceedingly well and by bringing other AFCB players into the game quickly with fast little passes he keeps the side going forward and on the front foot which is so important in such games.
Boro players were well beaten after 90 minutes at Dean Court.
As Middlesbrough did not get to grips with the ball in midfield they found themselves constantly stretched at the back with Callum Wilson running into the corners and down the sides of the centre backs. It was only going to end one way in the end unless Konstantopoulos was going to have a magical day in between the sticks. 

Players leave the pitch at the end of the Middlesbrough 
game to the tune of the reds are going up!

It was reported yesterday by the club that SKY coverage means the movement of the final home fixture of the season against Bolton to Monday 21st April at 7.45pm, which is not very convenient for exiles like myself and many others who will find Monday nights a problem, but it is a sign of the Cherries continued success.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Another top six team finally beaten by AFCB

The Cherries have not had the best of records against the top six sides even if they have not been beaten too often by other teams. The win against Middlesbrough though was a huge win as it showed that the Cherries are one of the teams fighting for automatic promotion and that they have what it takes to go all the way. If the Cherries had won just a few more of these crunch battles they could have been well clear by now, but it hasn't really happened in some of the key confrontations with other top six teams.
Middlesbrough drop to third after AFCB's win over them.
AFCB are starting to get a few points in crunch matches now.
I am not sure why that is exactly. The draw up at the Riverside earlier in the season was certainly a good point gained at the time and I still think Eddie would feel that about that game now. Watford away was another good point but certainly a game that the Cherries dominated and if they had have seen Ian Harte tuck away the early penalty on that day it would have been an easier game than it turned out to be. Norwich away was also a good point and was the game with probably the best team goal in it for the season when Callum Wilson finished off a fabulous 31 pass move. 

It was a hard lesson learnt up at Derby where the team almost held out until the last 10 minutes when events went against the Cherries, but I felt that AFCB were stronger when they played Derby at Dean Court and were unfortunate not to take all three points that day. The 2-2 draw with Ipswich at dean Court in November was a tough game, but again AFCB played the better football without getting the result. The battles with other promotion chasing teams had been fairly good, but the defeat to Norwich at home in January was a bit of a wake up call. The Cherries have to play on the front foot and keep playing that way to get results and the quality of some of the players in the Championship is good enough to upset the best even when they might only have 10 men on the pitch.

So before the Middlesbrough match, the Cherries had only beaten 10-man Watford at the Goldsands stadium out of the promotion chasers this season if you discount Brentford who have just slipped out of the top six. It was time that the lads took more points off one of the other strong teams and the way they did it to go back to the top of the league again will hopefully help them to stay there this time. So out of the nine games that AFCB have played against the other current top six sides they have accumulated 11 points, but if you tot up our rivals totals against the top six you might be surprised that AFCB have not done the worst of the top six in these games.

Watford undoubtedly punish lower teams well as do AFCB, while Norwich are the big game specialists. Watford amazingly only have a total of two points from the eight games they have played against other top six sides - they have Derby and Middlesbrough in their next two games. Norwich are by far the best team in the big games having won 18 points from their nine games so far with just Middlesbrough for them to face on 17 April. Middlesbrough have won 14 points from their eight games and have Norwich and Watford to play both away. Ipswich have secured 14 points from their nine games with just AFCB to play in their next game at home. Luckily Tyrone Mings picked up his 10th yellow card in the match against Watford and I expect that rules him out of facing AFCB in the next match. Finally, Derby have won 12 points with just Watford left to face in their next match. 

All Departments has released its latest podcast to review AFCB's 3-0 win against Middlesbrough. Visit the All Departments' website or scroll down the right side panel to the All Departments' logo and click on the sound bar to listen.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Arter crashes Boro's promotion run - Cherries win 3-0 (videos)

Match Report
21 March 2015
AFCB v Middlesbrough
Attendance: 10,998
Aitor Karanka leaves the bus heading for his team's biggest defeat of the season.
There was a mood of optimism in the air with AFCB supporters before this game kicked off. You could feel it all around the Goldsands stadium for this crunch match. There was a job to do and the players were ready to put one of their promotion rivals back in their place and it was one of the first time international call up boys who stole the headlines, the Republic of Ireland's Harry Arter.

AFCB got off to a good early start with Callum Wilson being brought down by Tomas Kalas and Yann Kermorgant tucked the spot kick away to lead after just 12 minutes. That is the way it stayed until half time. But the Cherries were driven forward in the second half by Harry Arter's spectacular finish on 48 minutes that underlined the Cherries' dominance. It took a dubious penalty to put the game completely out of reach, but everything was going for Arter and AFCB on the day and Brett Pitman was soon celebrating with his arm's outstretched after successfully scoring the penalty.
The teams line up, Boro in all white.
Minutes to go and AFCB players know what they want to do.
Darren Anderton and Simon Thomas are talking to Sky
viewers around the world who are tuning in.
At the time this was enough to take AFCB back to the top on goal difference but later results saw Watford defeated 0-1 at Vicarage Road and that gave AFCB a clear point lead at the top of the table going into the international break.

Eddie Howe made one change to the team that drew at Cardiff by bringing in Yann Kermorgant to the starting 11 while Brett Pitman was unlucky to find himself on the bench. Middlesbrough made tow changes from their Derby game and brought in Emilio Nsue and Adam Reach to the starting 11 and Jelle Vossen was among the subs, while Jonathan Woodgate was not in the squad.
Middlesbrough players are hopeful before kick off.
Tommy Elphick gets ready to lead his team.
There are more pictures on Match Day Gallery.

The Cherries had a terrific start to the game with Ritchie being fouled some 35 yards out and fairly centrally by George Friend. Yann Kermorgant chipped the ball over the wall and Konstantopoulos saved to his left down low and as the ball spilt out Callum Wilson looked favourite to get their first, but he was pulled back by Gibson as he never made it. An early let off for Boro we thought.

Callum Wilson was soon in his stride causing plenty of problems for Tomas Kalas. While he was caught with an offside and a handball in the first six minutes he was going to have a lively game. Boro's best option for attack early on lay with Nsue and Albert Adomah up their right wing and a testing cross by Adomah on 9 minutes could have been costly had Patrick Bamford or Lee Tomlin been running on to it.

AFCB were also productive on the wings and on the left and a sharp move on 11 minutes saw Daniels and Arter involved before Callum Wilson raced into the box and was taken down by Tomas Kalas after a simple nutmeg through his legs. Kalas had his arms all over Wilson and clearly trying to prevent him from getting past and Wilson just went down under the force from Kalas. Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the sport and the home crowd was delighted to see Yann Kermorgant slot the ball into the left corner of the goal, even though Konstantopoulos got a hand on it as it flew in -1-0!

Boro's reply was to see Albert Adomah fire a shot well over a few minutes later. Artur Boruc was clearly in good catching mood and was taking everything in the air when Boro's crosses came in. A good move on 19 minutes from Arter and Francis led to Ritchie passing to Wilson who fired wide, pulling his shot right across the area. A better half chance came to Yann Kermorgant shortly after when the ball found it's way to him from Matt Ritchie, but his volley also went wide.

Middlesbrough tried to break the stranglehold with a move up the left that Bamford looked to run on to but Art Boruc acted as a sweeper and cleaned out any danger by coming well out of his box to bet Bamford to the ball.

AFCB were constantly looking for Wilson down the channels and over the top and it was a constant headache for Boro's centre backs who just didn't or rather couldn't deal with him all game. Yann Kermorgant was also getting in the action though and on 28 minutes he almost benefited when the ball broke to him in the box, but he slammed his volleyed shot down and saw it bounce up at head height straight to Konstantopoulos.

Boro's best player looked to be Lee Tomlins who was always busy and keeping them tick over well, but he was not finding Bamford easy to link up with while Adomah never really found Charlie Daniels an easy defender to get past.

Ritchie was always a threat on the right wing and he had a low shot saved on 30 minutes. Corners were not that frequent but Steve Cook almost got on the end of one just after the half hour. Boro started to get a bit more possession through Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton was putting himself about a bit too heavily as he received a yellow card for a foul on Wilson. AFCB were finding it difficult to get the second with Wilson again shooting wide on 41 minutes, while Arter saw his shot blocked before Pugh created enough problems to see Nsue given a yellow card.

Simon Francis was working hard on the right and put in a strong cross that Wilson got a head too but it was too big for him and the header went wide. With just a minute added of extra time the Cherries had to settle for just a goal lead at half time.
Half time and AFCB have a slender lead.
Fans join Sky sports presenters Jim White and Nathalie Sawyer in trying to hit the cross bar.
Tokelo Rantie and Elliott Ward look on.
AFCB fans hope the scoreline is extended in the second half.
Second Half
The Cherries came out in this half meaning business. It was only seconds old when Ritchie put in a cross following a free kick on Pugh, and Tommy Elphick met the ball with a diving header that Konstantopoulos somehow miraculously saved from point blank range with the ball travelling at lightning speed. AFCB were getting a lot of joy up the left side with Yann Kermorgant and Marc Pugh keeping the ball tight in and around Boro's box. Soon Pugh was doing Cruyff turn on top of Cruyff turn and toying with Boro players - it was mesmorising. Importantly though he was keeping the ball with with Yann Kermorgant, before Pugh made a swift turn back out towards the left. That's when Harry Arter entered the frame and just took aim to hit an absolute screamer from the edge of the box right into the top left corner with the ball glancing off the post and in! That raised the roof.

AFCB players hurtled themselves over towards Harry who was standing with his arm up in salute while players congratulated him and Tommy Elphick came at top speed over the top of the crowd of players to release all his joy and emotion at seeing Harry Arter double the lead right in front of the Family Stand. It was almost as if the pressure had been lifted and the knowledge that this is a team headed for success this season. Harry Arter had almost snuck up unnoticed when he scored, as if to say to Pugh and Yann stop messing about with it and let me just strike it where it needs to go - it was jolly effective and the Cherries were 2-0 up on 48 minutes.

The lead could have been three moments later when Wilson broke down the left and crossed to Ritchie, but Matt slipped at the vital time and the ball sped away behind him. Boro had not given up though and they won a corner after reach had seen his shot blocked. Lee Tomlin also had a shot blocked. Nothing much was going for the opposition though and on 55 minutes both Nsue and Clayton were subbed for Adam Foreshaw and Kike (Garcia Martinez).

A rash challenge from Harry Arter on Lee Tomlin earned him his customary yellow card on 56 minutes. Again it was an unnecessary challenge, but did break up an attack building from Boro's own half. Boro had an opportunity soon after when Leadbitter found Tomlin and Adomah put in a good cross that Francis had to clear for a corner under pressure.

But if that was the best Boro could do, AFCB came much closer to extending the lead when Pugh put low cross from the left that Ritchie was running onto and managed to scoop the ball over from all of eight yards! Yann Kermorgant was then subbed for Brett Pitman on the hour.

Boro were still testing Daniels and Francis but even from corners against them AFCB were looking dangerous on the break. Ben Gibson was doing his best to keep taking the fight to the Cherries, but Tomlin was seen deeper and Bamford was just not getting on the ball enough to create any chances.

AFCB made another sub on 66 minutes when Matt Ritchie was replaced by Adam Smith. Boruc again was called into action to make a catch which he had done well all afternoon. Even when Boro thought they had scored they found out that they hadn't. Following a Boro corner, Tomlin had put in a deep cross and Kike had headed it back across goal but even with the ball going into the net the assistant Referee's flag was up for offside.

As we entered the last 20 minutes there was no hurry from AFCB to take corners. Still Steve Cook had a go to score and headed over. The left side had been the problem for Boro all game though and when Daniels and Pugh linked up again it spelt trouble. This time Arter took up the pace and left Lee Tomlin trailing before bursting into the box when Leadbitter and Nsue tried to stop him. For me, seeing it just once, neither of them made enough contact for a penalty and I thought Harry definitely went down too easily and I expected to see him yellow carded for simulation and then sent off for the second yellow. Surely, that was the only reason why the referee was delaying, but no - it was a penalty to the Cherries!

Brett Pitman was quick to cradle the ball this time and he put the penalty away with great precision to make it 3-0 on 75 minutes. Boro made a sub on 79 minutes with Leadbitter replaced by Dean Whitehead, Karanka new the game was up. AFCB fans were singing: "Are you Blackpool in disguise?" That was more than likely in retaliation to Patrick Bamford's pre-match comments when he thought Boro would get the win as they were not like Blackpool who had been well beaten at Dean Court in the Cherries last home match.

Marc Pugh was still trying to get his name on the score sheet and hit his shot over. Adam Smith was also going on his fast flowing runs and winning free kicks, while Pitman had a good opportunity which he curled wide. Patrick Bamford did win a free kick at the end, but he could only shoot over as the ball glanced off the bar with Boruc seemingly beaten.

The last minutes were still damaging in a way though for the Cherries as Callum Wilson was first clipped and had to be replaced by Tokelo Rantie and then in the four minutes of extra time Marc Pugh was fouled by lee Tomlin and crawled off on all fours to get treatment. He did not come back on until after the final whistle with a big ice pack around his ankle.
That'll do nicely!
Boro have been well beaten.
The officials are not centre of attention for once.
Marc Pugh has some new footwear following his late injury in extra time.
I was surprised to see Pugh walking around on the pitch after picking up his injury.
Maybe that is a good sign that it is not too bad.
TK shakes referee Anthony Taylor's hand.
AFCB players with Konstantopoulos.
Boro players walk off dejected.

It was a tremendous day for AFCB fans. The crowd really got behind the team from start to finish and it brought the best out in the players. The day will be remembered for Harry Arter's fabulous strike early in the second half, but all the defenders and the keeper made a solid platform for this result restricting a strong strike force to a minimal amount of shots while Callum Wilson was just humongous for the Cherries up front. Boro fans will certainly feel aggrieved about the penalty decisions, perhaps rightly so for the second one, but it is always the referee's call to make and while I don't like to see any penalty unfairly won I felt that AFCB deserved the win being much the stronger side. This is three points that psychologically feel like 10 points. The win was that important.

Boruc, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels, Ritchie (Smith 65), Arter, Surman, Pugh, Kermorgant (Pitman 61), Wilson (Rantie 90).

AFCB subs
Camp, Smith, Ward, Fraser, MacDonald, Pitman, Rantie,  

AFCB Ratings
Boruc 8, Francis 7, Elphick 8, Cook 8, Daniels 7, Ritchie 7, Arter 9, Surman 8, Pugh 7, Kermorgant 7, Wilson 9.

Konstantopoulos, Nsue Lopez (Forshaw 55), Kalas, Gibson, Friend, Leadbitter (Whitehead 79), Clayton, (Kike 55), Reach, Tomlin, Adomah, Bamford.

Middlesbrough subs
Kike, Ripley, Whitehead, Vossen, Omeruo, Wildschut, Forshaw

Referee Watch: 
Anthony Taylor 5/1 - He was fooled over the second penalty for sure.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Cherries can make it really tough for Boro

Middlesbrough have hung in well in the Championship race, but this week just might see them just start to struggle to hold on with Watford. It is not that AFCB are ratcheting up their title bid by improving their home performances, Boro have four home games left which is a help but they have Watford and Norwich still to face on their travels. Having fought a hard match against Derby in midweek and Ipswich just three days before that, it has been a very testing period for Middlesbrough which they have come through well, but perhaps this next hurdle will be too high for them.

AFCB will go into the match with plenty of confidence having picked up their home performances after a difficult February and they can see the finishing line getting closer if they can win this match and get a positive result at Ipswich. Middlesbrough and other teams might then be hoping for other teams to do them a favour. It is important that the Cherries do make it a hard match against Boro as they have been under the most intense pressure with so many top of the table clashes in a row. 
AFCB v Boro last season.
Boro are a very strong team and we have seen their key players like Patrick Bamford, Grant Leadbitter and Albert Adomah come to the fore in recent weeks. Now their supporters will be wondering if they can sustain it. That has been the one thing that has kept them from forging ahead in this league. The odd defeat to Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds in recent weeks has just clipped their wings and while they fought back with a terrific performances against Ipswich and Derby, a defeat to AFCB might be harder for them to recover from with the international break coming before the next match.

As always the crowd will be important for this home match and AFCB fans have to raise the roof if they want the team to deliver a result that can take them closer to their dream. There is no place for nervous quietness or silent expectancy. The Cherries will need every supporter to get right behind them to help them get the points. Boro are a very talented team and we saw how well they played against AFCB at the Riverside and it is important that they are not allowed to get their noses further in front. This is the match that can push AFCB much further towards the automatic places and AFCB fans need to shake the rafters and bring the passion to this early starting match - today is the day! Let's give the team the support they need to put this Championship rival on the floor. UTCIAD!

Friday, 20 March 2015

What is the best way of taking on Boro?

AFCB have now got a massive game to try and take charge of on Saturday. It will be Eddie Howe's task to get players and the crowd up for this game if they needed to get excited about it after the disappointment of the midweek result. Again Eddie refuses to be downhearted about not getting all three points at Cardiff and if the team can get a win against Middlesbrough, the point against Cardiff will look a lot better.
Can AFCB do better than another draw against Boro?
The Cherries must go into the game playing with the same confidence and style of play as if they were still top. Any hesitancy will surely be picked up by Boro's players who are themselves on a great run. But if the Cherries can start well I believe that Boro will be the ones looking at themselves and wondering what happens if they get nothing at Dean Court.

This is where we all find out about what AFCB are made of. Have they got the will to beat the big sides and how much do they want to be the ones on top? If they play as if it were their last game of the season and winner takes all, then I think that would be the kind of commitment that they will need to show. If the goals do start to fly in against Boro it could be a great boost for the team as they go into the international break and so far this season the team has done well going into the breaks.

Like Eddie Howe, I don't see much wrong with how the Cherries are playing at the moment. The defending at corners and free kicks is important. I'd probably say there are some better teams at defending set-pieces than AFCB in the league, but it is up to our players not to allow so many of these situations. So how do we play against Boro? By not making mistakes at the back, keeping our heads when defending and giving the fans something to shout about right from the very start. But Eddie Howe will have been planning how this game needs to go for some time now and I am hoping that he has found more than a few weaknesses in Middlesbrough's game that AFCB can exploit. UTCIAD!

SKY Bet Competition Winners announced!
The winners of the Sky Bet Transfer Fund competition have been announced. We had so many entries in the end that Sky Bet decided to give away three pairs of tickets to the AFC Bournemouth v Middlesbrough game! The winners can be seen with their winning tweets on the side bar of the blog.

Don't for get to register for the SKY Bet Transfer Fund to win £250,000 funds for AFCB and £5000 for yourself.